……Reports in Review……


Ultrasound Politics

Ultralove: The Medical Right Falls Hard for Ultrasound, Despite Lack of Evidence

By Cynthia L. Cooper, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Washington D.C., February 2008. http://www.rcrc.org/issues/medright_ultrasound_one.cfm

This online report sketches out the rising popularity of using ultrasound imaging as a way to dissuade pregnant women from considering abortion. Specifically, it documents how anti-abortion groups like Focus on the Family invested “$4.2 million in a single year to pay for training and ultrasound equipment for crisis pregnancy centers” for over 350 ultrasound machines in 48 states, while Heartbeat International has equipped 460 of its 1100 affiliates with ultrasound capability. As the president of the National Institute of Family & Life Advocates Thomas A. Glessner is quoted as saying, “NIFLA firmly believes that PRC’s (pregnancy centers) should place evangelism and a presentation of the gospel as a top priority in their ministries.” 

The report criticizes religious and political anti-abortion groups for using a medical diagnostic test with no medical expertise and for wielding ultrasound’s powerful imagery as a way to discourage abortion. It also argues that no research substantiates Focus on the Family’s claim that “‘research shows’ that 89% of women considering abortion change their minds after having an ultrasound and counseling at a crisis pregnancy center.” Furthermore, the report argues that unregulated and non-medical ultrasound use is suspect because ultrasounds, while being safe, are not completely innocuous and should not be used without a medically justifiable reason and without medical professionals to diagnose the images. The report underscores this second point by saying ‘Failure to diagnose’ a fetal sonogram has been the reason for a large number of medical malpractice claims.” If a sonogram is a diagnostic tool that a physician is obligated to read carefully, how can a crisis pregnancy center justify using sonograms if it cannot fulfill its responsibility to read and understand the image? Antiabortion groups might have a right to free speech, the authors write, but they do not necessarily have a right to use a medical diagnostic tool for other purposes. 

Other Reports in Review

Illegal Wiretaps Ignored in Debates

Candidates Still Not Asked About Wiretaps, FISA, or Telecom Immunity in Debates t

Media Matters for America, Washington, D.C., January 24, 2008. http://mediamatters. org/items/200801240006#comments_bottom _nav

Despite the public stir after The New York Times broke the news in December 2005 that President Bush allowed wiretapping without Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court approval, Media Matters for Americadiscovered that only one question has been asked of a candidate during presidential debates on this important issue. This is especially striking because according to the report, “[a]t least ten of the candidates who have participated in presidential debates in the past year have been in Congress as it has considered legislation concerning FISA, wiretapping, and the immunity issue.” Congress itself had also sidestepped the debate by enacting temporary legislation to allow itself more time to deliberate and craft policy around the issue (debate has since resumed as of January 24th).

The issues at the center of the FISA debate include whether there should be judicial approval of warrants to search communication between U.S. citizens and foreigners overseas and whether telecommunications companies, such as AT&T, who have assisted the government to gather records, should be held legally culpable if it is found that the wiretaps were illegal. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T for cooperating with the illegal wiretapping. It charges the President with abusing executive power and ignoring the U.S. Constitution’s protection from unreasonable search and seizure in bypassing judicial approval for warrants. Media Matter for Americaraises the question of how such an important and hotly contested issue could be almost completely absent from the many public presidential debates we have already witnessed.

Subprime Time

Foreclosed: State of the Dream 2008.

By Amaad Rivera, Brenda Cotto-Escalera, Anisha Desai, Jeannette Huezo, and Dedrick Muhammad, United for a Fair Economy, Boston, Mass., January 15, 2008. http://www.faireconomy.org/files/StateOf- Dream_01.16.08_Web.pdf

The subprime lending crisis worsens the economic woes of lower income people, many of whom are people of color, strapping them with untenable debt and Foreclosed predicts approximately 2.2 million foreclosures and $2.3 trillion in economic losses in loans originally issued between 1998 and 2006. Because subprime lenders stood to profit more from subprime loans than conventional ones, they had an incentive to push subprime loans falsely as a cheaper refinancing opportunity (only 11% of subprime loans went to first time home buyers). Lenders also steered people who qualified for conventional loans towards subprime loans— somewhere between one-third to one-half of subprime borrowers qualified for less-expensive conventional loans.

While the report gives strong evidence that subprime lending practices have and will continue to disproportionately affect minority communities, the report would have benefited from further evidence to support its argument that predatory lending was targeted on the basis of race. The report shows that subprime loans were disproportionately given to African Americans compared to whites. Yet it did not break down the data by income and credit record to highlight that fewer low-income whites with spotty credit were steered into subprime loans than similarly situated African Americans. The report estimates the crisis will cost the economy between $355 billion to $462 billion in direct losses, including $164 billion to $213 billion in losses to people of color. Community “spillover” costs, which include higher crime rates, less funding for education and other public services, and the administrative costs of processing the glut of foreclosures, are estimated at $2.3 trillion The final section of the report urges more progressive taxation to aid the economically disadvantaged in achieving home ownership and in general improving their educational and economic prospects, simplifying the homebuying process so that consumers will be better informed and less easily exploited, and rethinking redevelopment projects, such as the one currently underway in New Orleans, so that, instead of evicting poorer residents, they are included in the rebuilding.

Election Day Warnings

Asian American Access to Democracy in the 2006 Elections

By Glenn D. Magpantay with Nancy W. Yu, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, New York, January 2008. www.aaldef.org.

Along with gerrymandering districts along ethnic lines, not providing adequate or any polling stations in communities of color, and the poll taxes and literacy requirements of the Jim Crow era, a language barrier can also be a key factor in disenfranchising a voter, this report shows.

Until 1975, localities were not required to ensure there were no barriers preventing non-English-proficient speakers from voting. AALDEF has pressed for and monitored the application of the Voting Rights Act mandate that communities with limited-English proficient populations of either five percent of the county or 10,000 people provide language assistance, including translators, translated materials, and if needed, personal assistance in the voting booth to facilitate voting. AALDEF’s survey of Asian-American voters at poll sites in nine states and Washington D.C., 43 percent of respondents had limited English language proficiency and in some locations the percentage was as high as 88 percent. The survey found consistent problems impeding the voting process including poorly translated materials (including the ballots and complementary materials), a shortage of translators, difficulty in attaining provisional ballots for voters in cases where voter registration rolls had problems, and requiring identification from Asian American voters, though of the voters who were asked for identification, 78% were not required to present any in the cases observed.

AALDEF urges the Justice Department to continue pressing counties to comply, and urges counties to take advantage of federal funds and support provided to enfranchise voters with limited English-language proficiency throughout the entire registration and voting process. Finally, the AALDEF reminds counties that other than translated ballots, it is essential to provide language assistance in terms of registration forms, polling site information, signs, translators, and provisional ballots in cases where problems arise from registration rolls or confusion.

Immigrant Economics

Immigrant Integration in Low-Income Urban Neighborhoods

By Lynnette A. Rawlings, et.al., The Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., 2007. http://www.urban.org/Uploaded- PDF/411574_immigrant_integration.pdf

This rich report evaluates how factors such as education level, ownership of a car and driver’s license, English-language proficiency, and citizenship status affect various immigrant groups’ economic prospects. Its strongest finding is that “Education is the most important determinant of economic advancement regardless of race, ethnicity, nativity, citizenship or origin.” Having a driver’s license and car was another significant determinant of economic opportunity because “lack of transportation may be a more important barrier to economic advancement in low-income urban neighborhoods than elsewhere. Drivers licenses are also important forms of government- sanctioned identification, and adults who do not have them may experience difficulties accessing government benefits and services, as well as credit, bank accounts, home loans and other financial services products.” This is significant because 30% of immigrants in the survey were not documented and in many states cannot access licenses.

Those with higher education, and a driver’s license and car were more likely to be employed and have a savings account and credit card (access to the financial system). Those with good English language skills and who were citizens were more likely to own homes and have access to higher paying jobs.

Education-level is heavily related to English- language proficiency, the report shows; and “over a quarter of working age immigrant respondents from Mexico, Central America and Southeast Asia did not have a ninth grade education.” To illustrate the dramatic relationship between education-level and poverty, the survey found that respondents with no college education were four to five times more likely to live in impoverished households than respondents with a four-year college degree.

The report also compares Southeast Asian immigrants, who “mostly came into the country as refugees, received substantial integration services after entry, and have a high rate of citizenship,” and Mexican and Central-American immigrants who are “generally barred from public benefits, ineligible for citizenship, and subject potentially to arrest and deportation.” Southeast Asians “fare far better on measures of economic advancement and integration than comparable groups given their very low levels of educational attainment and English proficiency.” This highlights the importance of federally supported immigrant integration initiatives for the economic success of immigrants. Together, this data shows the many benefits from having official status and documentation, even if only drivers licenses.

Reports in Review compiled by Aaron Rothbaum.

Spring 2008
Vol. 23, No. 1 :


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